John Helliar

27 February 1998

John Helliar

John Helliar has a 130ha

(320-acre) farm on the

Longleat Estate, near

Warminster, Wilts. He milks

180 cows, rears his own

replacements and grows

45ha (110 acres) of maize,

which comprises 70% of the

winter ration. 1500 store

lambs are put out on winter

grass keep in October for

sale as fat lambs in


WITH prices of all commodities on the floor, it is nice to have some super weather to cheer us all up and hopefully allow us to get the cows out early to produce some cheap milk.

All grassland has received 50 units of nitrogen or dirty water. Where the dirty water was put on in January the grass has grown 2 or 3in, and the grassland as a whole is looking good – the sheep have done a good job. The one disappointment is to see so many docks appearing. Having sprayed them last spring I expected some, but not so many as there are. We will have to spray them again.

All fields have been soil tested; this is the third time we have tested since we have been here (1990). We are trying to build up a picture of the fertility, especially the lime status. Every field had 2t in 1991, and we spread on half the farm in 1995 – mainly the maize area – so I am anticipating liming a similar acreage this year, on the greensand.

Having assessed our maize and grass silage stocks, we will have about 300t surplus to requirements for this winter. This is partly due to the exceptional maize yield last summer and partly due to the cows grazing right through till mid-November. So, with every chance of an early turn-out on 20ha of Italian ryegrass, we have decided to grow 6ha of Cadenza winter wheat, which will give us some flexibility. We can either sell the grain, crimp it and feed it as concentrate, or whole-crop it as forage if we have a prolonged drought.

The 66 heifers are all in-calf, mainly to Friesians – 52 – with the rest to Aberdeen-Angus. We havent housed 26 heifers this winter and they have not suffered for it. They are on the field where the dry cows spent all of the summer, so not having any grass there in the spring will not be a problem. In fact it could be a bonus, not wanting too much grass for the dry cows.

One aspect of our cow fertility causing concern is reabsorption, so far this has happened to 10 cows. What is interesting is they were all served between Sept 20 and Oct 20 which is the same period we were feeding 4kg of crimped wheat in the ration. Because the butterfats dipped to around 3%. on Oct 20, we changed the ration taking out 2kg of wheat and replacing it with 2kg of a higher protein blend. It could be pure coincidence, we will probably never know. &#42

John Helliar will have about 300t of maize and grass silage surplus to requirements for this winter.

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